Chautauqua returns to Dakota City Heritage VillageHurry! Hurry! Step right up! For this year, and this year only, Dakota City Heritage Village is bringing back its Chautauqua -- the tent show featuring song and dance and entertainment of epic proportions.
By: Michelle Leonard, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Hurry! Hurry! Step right up! For this year, and this year only, Dakota City Heritage Village is bringing back its Chautauqua -- the tent show featuring song and dance and entertainment of epic proportions.
Well, maybe not epic, but it still promises to be a pretty good show.
Cancelled three years ago because there wasn’t enough funding, the Dakota City Chautauqua is coming back for this year’s Dakota County Fair. It is made possible, Dakota City president Pearl Shirley said, by a Minnesota Department of Agriculture Legacy Grant received this year.
So what, exactly, is a Chautauqua? In its day, the Chautauqua was an adult education movement that featured teachers, preachers, musicians, actors and entertainers. Around Minnesota, the Chautauquas were often held in tents, and would attract residents from miles around. They were highly publicized in newspapers like the Dakota County Tribune, and rave reviews often followed.
Dakota County revived the Chautauqua scene in 1998, when the county celebrated its 150th anniversary. The content of those Chautauquas focused exclusively on telling stories of Dakota County’s past.
This year’s theme, Minnesota Bits of Trivia, goes outside Dakota County’s borders, Shirley said.
“One teaser is about the word, ‘Uff-da,’” she said. “There is one about Grandma’s Marathon, and other happenings around the state, without giving it all away.”
A tight-knit group of area performers emerged through those shows, and most of them live in Dakota County. In fact, of this year’s nine performers, seven have worked together on past Dakota City Chautauquas. The stories are written and directed by Pete Martin and Dewey Roth. Music is written by Eric Peltoniemi.
For as excited as Dakota City folks are about the upcoming shows, the reality is this may be the last year for a while for Chautauquas at the Dakota County Fair. The shows were cancelled three years ago due to lack of funding. It costs money to set up the tents, have scripts and music professionally written and get talented actors together, Shirley said. This year’s show would not be possible had it not been for the award of the Legacy grant.
“People are really anxious to see it again, and we have the returning actors, but we don’t know if we’ll be able to do it again after this year. This grant was very generous and very sizable, and we’re going to blow most of it,” Shirley said.
The shows are free and will be held several times during fair week. Shows will be held at 7 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Thursday; 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., Sunday.
“The people I’ve talked to are just overjoyed that we’re bringing it back,” Shirley said.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s funding is from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature.